House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is accompanied by staff and security Wednesday as she rushes to a Democratic Caucus meeting as work continues on President Joe Biden's sweeping domestic agenda, the Build Back Better Act, at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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Ann Woloson is the executive director at Consumers for Affordable Health Care.

The Build Back Better framework moving forward in Congress will benefit Mainers in many ways. The legislation will help make health insurance more affordable for tens of thousands and will include a hearing benefit for people with Medicare. It provides additional resources for home and community-based services, including help with bathing and dressing, so older Mainers and people with disabilities can continue to live at home, in their communities.

It includes initiatives that will help working families: expanding access to affordable child care, extending the child tax credit, offering universal free preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children and expanding free school meals and providing help to families with children during the summer. It also makes significant investments in affordable housing for renters and homeowners.

The framework does much more, but these are examples of some of the ways it addresses the concerns of Mainers we talk with every day.

Consumers for Affordable Health Care serves as Maine’s Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program. Marketplace health insurance open enrollment started this week. We are talking with Mainers who need help understanding their health insurance options and enrolling in coverage. Many of the people we hear from are also finding it difficult to meet other basic needs. Build Back Better will make significant and truly historic investments that will help boost economic growth as America continues to recover from the pandemic.

It will have a big impact on the cost of health insurance. Tens of thousands of Mainers receive, through the American Rescue Plan Act, financial assistance paying their monthly health insurance premiums. This year Mainers received an average of a 52 percent reduction in their monthly premiums due to the American Rescue Plan Act. Nearly a quarter of people who signed up for plans after additional subsidies became available could purchase a comprehensive health plan for $10 or less than a month. Build Back Better extends this assistance through 2025.

For Paul, who works at a small auto repair shop in Penobscot County and was uninsured until recently, the additional subsidies mean he can now afford health coverage and access the care and medicine he needs to treat his diabetes.

Another Mainer, Diane, became uninsured when she lost her job after the explosion at the Jay mill in 2020. She also recently enrolled in an affordable marketplace plan and can access the health care she needs until she finds another job with coverage. Mainers in need of health coverage can compare plans and see what assistance they may be eligible for by visiting Maine’s marketplace at CoverME.gov.  

There are many other examples of why the Build Back Better framework is good for Mainers. We urge our federal lawmakers to support it. While we hope there will be additions made to the final package, we hope partisanship does not get in the way of legislation that will make a dramatic difference in the lives of Mainers.

Build Back Better should not be the last word on health care affordability. We are pleased to learn the latest agreement would allow negotiation of some drug prices under Medicare Part D and, perhaps, cap what seniors pay for drugs. This is good news, as it was reported last year, Mainers paid more than $160 million more than the previous year for just 25 drugs with the highest cost increases. Mainers with Medicare advantage plans bore the brunt of a little over a third of the increases. As we learn more about this latest development, it’s clear price negotiation and capping out-of-pocket costs should be included. Yes, more needs to be done, but this would be a very good step forward.

There is no good reason to delay the monumental progress Build Back Better promises. We hope federal lawmakers will pass the most recent Build Back Better compromise and provide the relief so many Mainers need — now.